Coptic Christians forced to lock church during mob attack

Coptic Christians were forced to lock themselves inside their own church when a mob of more than 1,000 people attacked and attempted to intimidate and threaten the worshippers amid the rising tensions in the area.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Mourners carry crosses and march after the funeral of Coptic Christians who were killed on Friday in Minya, Egypt, May 26, 2017.

On Oct. 26, Coptic worshippers bolted shut the doors of the newly renovated Saint George Church and its nursery as a 1,000-strong mob gathered outside and attacked the building. Police were later called to the scene, and the Christians were ironically the ones held accountable for what happened, the Express detailed.

According to an insider, Coptic leaders in the area were obliged to go to a peace meeting at the village hall and approve a reconciliation document which aimed to foster love and brotherhood with the local Muslim community. However, the "non-provoke crisis" clause included in the agreement was controversial as some saw it as a form of support for efforts to maliciously close down Coptic churches.

Christians have been forced to close their churches after a string of extremist attacks in the last few months. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese released a statement earlier this month lamenting the mob attacks by ultraconservative Muslims and the lack of action on the part of the authorities, Fox News relayed.

The diocese said the situation had worsened in the past weeks and prayer was increasingly viewed as a "crime that Copts should be punished for." The statement also asked authorities to intervene and stand up against the fundamentalists to put an end to the discrimination against Christians.

Coptic Christians comprise around 10 percent of Egypt's population. Since 2013, they have been the target of Islamic extremists' attacks because of their support for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who took the place of ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.

The forced closure of churches in the past several months highlight the struggles of Coptic Christians in Egypt, especially in the Sinai Peninsula and other areas in the northern region.